In writing this suite of pieces and entitling it “Mythologies” perhaps some explanation is required. For a start why the plural of mythology?
It seems to me that almost everyone would have an instant and, most often, pictorial reaction to each of the names in this suite. It also seems clear that all of these reactions will be at least subtly different and would therefore be to some extent a valid and quite unique personalised mythology. This rich ground excited me, and the more I thought about it, the more clearly came the pictures of my childhood’s imagination mixed and filtered as they are by half a lifetime’s revisitations. I realised that, for instance, my Venus represented but one amalgam from a vast repository of images, writings and imaginings. If it were possible to somehow arrive back at the prototype Venus, for example, would it be clear where she finished and where all this encrustation started? I was fairly sure that it would not be clear, and, what was very liberating, that it didn’t matter anyway.
This answer seemed not only to validate the web of associations in my own mind but to give it encouragement and stimulation. I decided to add my own layer of sediment to this pile!
There was too an element to these stories and images that was given a special dimension by growing up as I did in the Caribbean. The inheritance of a middle class Jamaican such as myself is a complicated one. My education was steeped in all things British, especially her literature and worship of “The Classics”. Any encounter with country people however, revealed a palpably living mythology of story and gesture, song and dance, mostly inherited long ago from African shores. It was curious too, to read of “mysterious” and “exotic” things - the realm of dream and fantasy to someone growing up in pastel shaded England -but to see such things as real, even normal in front of my eyes.
How vividly I could see the great stories of the ancients played out on the sparkling seas of my childhood, the distant mountain peaks, the fields and forests and amongst people who carried with them a longed for and idyllic, but distant and unattainable past - an arcadia indeed.
This is a depiction of the dawn. Aurora prepares as Apollo approaches the huge gates he must pass to bring forth a new day. She flings them open and his mighty Chariot thunders through. Another day may begin.
Here I have chosen to show the heroism of this demigod. His choice of virtue and good deeds in the face of evil, echoing man’s aspiration to goodness through strength.
Here, the too beautiful Psyche, in despair from Venus’s jealous taunts, laboriously climbs a high and rocky cliff to put an end to her torments. As she jumps, expecting a violent and swift death, Zephyrus, the South wind, at Cupid’s bidding, wafts her to a distant Isle in his gentle arms.
I was particularly drawn to this episode which precedes the better known story of Psyche and Cupid’s love.
“The mailed Mars shall on his altar sit,
Up to the Ears in Blood.”
Shakespeare, Henry 1V Part 1.
We should remember too that among Mars’s attendants, some say children, were Eris (Discord), Metus (Fear) and Pallor(Terror). He preferred the sound of battle to any music.
Here, of course is love. My mind was full of Botticelli’s famous “Birth of Venus” and these wonderful lines of Shelley describing that fantastic scene;
“Look, look, why shine
Those floating bubbles with such light divine?
They break, and from their mist a lily form
Rises from out the wave, in beauty warm.
The wave is by the blue-veined feet scarce press’d,
Her silky ringlets float about her breast,
Veiling it’s fairy loveliness; while her eye
Is soft and deep as the blue heaven is high,
The beautiful is born; and the sea and earth
May well revere the hour of that mysterious birth”
The son of Jupiter and the mortal Semele, Bacchus was the focus of much jealousy on Olympus, especially from Juno.
I see him and his train of nymphs, fauns and satyrs - all bedecked in ivy and vines - bringing his infectious and raucous celebrations to all in need.
c. Eleanor Alberga 2000